Platform: PS4, PC
Genre: Stealth, Action, Third-Person Shooter, Survival Military Thriller, Mecha
After Konami screwed the pooch with last year’s Metal Gear Survive and thus effectively ending the franchise’s foreseeable future, fans have been looking forward to not only the revival of the long-dormant Front Mission franchise but also that Left Alive could somehow fill that void. I’m sorry but that won’t be happening anytime soon.
If anything, Left Alive spells the death of yet another beloved long-running franchise. It’s an unsalvageable broken mess that attempts too many things at once, and unfortunately failing miserably at all of them. I suffered through this game so that you don’t have to.
The Stealth Is Broken…
Developer Ilinx must have been particularly ambitious at the start of the project, but something must have happened along the way because Left Alive is truly one of the worst gaming experiences I’ve ever had in my life, and that’s no joke.
Left Alive wants to be a stealth game, an action game, and also a survival game of sorts. The problem is that it fails on every level of gameplay.
None of it feels remotely decent to play, and I found myself wrestling with the wonky controls just to stay alive. Everything is simply broken to the point of being almost unplayable.
The stealth section, which makes up the majority of the gameplay, is broken. It doesn’t work like it should most of the times, as the only thing the player can do is crouch and duck behind covers that are seemingly transparent (seeing as how enemies can sometimes see you and shoot you through them).
The first major reason why the stealth sections are broken is because of how inconsistent the enemies are. Enemies can sometimes see you from across the map, with a line of sight that ranges from eagle eye to blind as a bat. At times, they could spot you from a mile away, while at other times, you could sneak through the middle of a compound surrounded by enemies without being detected. Sneaking in Left Alive is as unreliable as it is ridiculous.
Unlike other stealth games (or games that incorporate stealth), it’s baffling that Left Alive doesn’t feature staple mechanics like stealth takedowns and silencers on weapons. How can a stealth game not have those two features?
Sure, there are breakable melee weapons but even these don’t guarantee a ‘stealth takedown’, as they do little to no damage after being used once or twice.
…And So Is The Action
Just when I thought Left Alive couldn’t get any worse, the game confounds me even further by committing one of the biggest no-nos in stealth games. It often forces the player into full-blown shootouts and giving them no choice but to go in guns blazing, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be a stealth game at its core.
This on its own could be forgivable if the controls and character animations weren’t so janky and clunky. Heck, even a PS2-era game like Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater controlled much smoother than this.
It’s amazing how a 2019 game can still play worse than a game almost from almost two decades ago.
To make things even worse, these forced confrontations with enemies are usually impossible situations. I died a lot due to how unfair these combat situations were. Fighting against what seems to be an entire battalion of enemies and a Wanzer (what mechs are called in-game) is a hellish experience.
While Left Alive does feature real-time mech or Wanzer battles, these only constitute like twenty percent of the game at most, with the rest of the time spent on foot. Piloting Wanzers should have been the highlight of the game, but instead, they’re mere distractions, as well as being broken in their own right.
The camera utilizes an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective when players pilot Wanzers, and the problem with this is that the camera is often too close to the back of the enormous mecha that I couldn’t even see what’s in front of me, obscuring my vision and preventing me from aiming properly.
That leads to another problem, as these Wanzers look and move like a mech should, but they might as well be made of paper mache. The game threw me into mech battles where I was often outnumbered. With those aforementioned camera issues and the mech’s cumbersome realistic movement, I died all too easily.
It didn’t help that the mechs don’t have a visible health bar, forcing me to rely on the AI to tell me how critical my damage is. Before I know it, my Wanzer was already bursting into flames after mere moments of piloting it. The Wanzers in Left Alive don’t imbue you with a sense of power (though that might be the point of the military theme), so don’t expect this experience to be like a power fantasy of piloting a Gundam.
…Not To Mention The Enemy AI
If all of that sounds bad, those aren’t even the worst of it. What brought me to the brink of insanity is the unbalanced AI. They’re bullet sponges, able to absorb an insane amount of damage before dying and shoot like an expert marksman, never missing their target (the player).
It’s frustrating because it leads to all these cheap deaths. Left Alive handicaps the player too much, and gives too much of an advantage to enemies. Even when I had plenty of ammo and the best weapons, I still died numerous times due to how frustratingly unfair and clunky everything is.
Case in point, Left Alive only features two boss battles in the entire length of the game. It’s like the developers just slapped a boss battle into the game out of nowhere just for the sake of it, without caring about how unbalanced it is. It took me an hour of retrying to complete that boss battle to the point where I almost gave up.
Frustrating Save System
Another major problem that made Left Alive even more of a frustrating overall experience is its saving system. The game only allows players to save the game at certain checkpoints throughout any given map.
These save points are so sparsely located that dying usually means that you would have to start all over again and lose much of your progress.
The game’s checkpoint system is also an outdated mechanic. Dying after a cutscene means that players will have to respawn at the moment before the cutscene, instead of after it. There’s no reason that this should happen, but it does. This makes dying even more frustrated, as I had to waste time having to skip the cutscenes multiple times.
Generic Mess Of A Story
When I started playing Left Alive, I actually liked the war theme and plot, as generic as it is. It had decent writing, and plot buildup which made me invested in the three playable characters in the game. As the game ended, none of the plot threads were resolved, making for a hollow and disappointing experience.
Essentially, the story begins with the nation fo Garmoniya suddenly declaring war on its neighbouring country of Ruthenia by attacking and invading the city of Novo Slava, which is located in the border between the two countries. Players then assume the role of three protagonists who find themselves thrust into this conflict.
The bulk of the game takes place in Novo Slava, which is now a war-torn city with giant Wanzers and displaced refugees. I like the concept of how the game presented saving civilians as side quests but, unfortunately, it was executed poorly. Thanks to the game being a mess of broken gameplay mechanics, it was all I could do to progress through the main storyline.
Remember those impossible forced confrontations I mentioned above? These ‘saving civilians’ side quests often forced you to waste precious resources and break out of stealth mode, which meant that it was usually not worth the risk to do them. It defeats the purpose of including side quests in the first place if they’re not worth doing.
Left To Die
In my Fallout 76 review, I asked the question: Why would you play a game if it’s not fun? There’s always somebody who finds a game to be fun, even if you don’t. For instance, I might not like to play battle royale games, but a lot of people clearly do, which is why they’re raking in the cash. However, I can’t possibly imagine anyone actually enjoying the soul-crushing ordeal of playing Left Alive.
What does it say about a game when only five percent of players actually bothered to finish it. ’nuff said.
- Pilot giant mechas; woohoo.
- Nothing works and everything is broken (stealth, action, mech combat, etc)
- Unbalanced gameplay mechanics leading to frustratingly cheap deaths
- Enemies have unfair advantages (line of sight, bullet sponge, impeccable aim)
- A generic mess of a story
Final Score: 20/100
Left Alive was reviewed on a PS4 Pro, via a review copy courtesy of Square Enix and PlayStation.